What if the local business that you adore was gone before it even managed to hit its stride?
In our current instant-gratification-driven economy, local businesses – especially those in very specialized niches – compete against far more than they would have a decade or two ago. Further, mom-and-pop types are not always the most Internet–savvy bunch, a shortcoming that will prove to be the death of all but those who can manage to build a base of raving fans despite shirking the web.
You can and should tell others about businesses that you care about. Word of mouth helps build any kind of business. But niche businesses need to draw from a far wider pool of prospective customers than just people to whom you happen to mention them. Even your list of Facebook or Twitter friends won’t be enough to keep them afloat.
That’s where reviews come in. Word-of-mouth has always helped to build reputation and social proof. When you can’t reach out personally, writing a review can have a similar effect. Your review on their Google Local page (or whatever the heck the Goog is calling it this week) can help them stand out among chain stores and online retailers, and reach a broad enough selection of interested customers to help them stay afloat. Or grow, even.
Yelp and other review sites can also provide a big boost to small local businesses, so make that your next stop after leaving Google reviews for your favorite shops. A word of caution, though: If you’ve never left a review on Yelp before, they may look askance at any raving 5-star reviews, and hide them from view.
When leaving your first review or two on Yelp, make it a four-star review, even if it kills you. In addition to helping you avoid the glowing-review police, your review will be taken more seriously by someone looking for an honest evaluation of the business.
Ready to stop the meaningless “shop local” blather and give prospective shoppers actual reasons to support a local business? Awesome. Go to Google and search for that business by name and city, click on their page in the results, and look for the “Write a review” box. Fill it with everything you love about the place, and anything people need to know to set their expectations at the right level.
Note: Google’s “Write a review” works terribly on mobile, if you can find it at all, so if you’re short on time, do it from your desktop or laptop computer. I know – this fail of a mobile experience is brought to you by the behemoth who declared the death after April 21st of non-mobile-friendly sites…